Monday, January 15, 2018

Lekotek

Throughout M's time in various therapies, I've had the most questions about our play sessions at Lekotek. So, since we actually had a session today, I thought it would be a great time to share.

Lekotek is a therapy choice offered to children, from newborn to age 8, with disabilities and chronic health issues, and was begun by the local Easter Seals club. It's an optional combination of the various therapies a child is already in. For M, the Lekotek therapist looks at all of his goals across all of his therapies - as well as any of his personal needs that aren't addressed in a therapy - and helps us find techniques, technology, and toys designed to help him meet his goals. One of the great parts about Lekotek is that they actually have a toy lending library, too, so developmental toys can be borrowed for a short time (and gently used toys we own can be donated!). 

When we first started a little more than a year and a half ago,  our sessions (and the toys we borrowed) were designed to try to simply get M moving - reaching, rolling, grabbing, dropping, and so on. Fun - and getting ANY type of purposeful movement - were our first goals.  At this point in his life, he was enduring a lot of physical/occupational therapy, which was really hard work for him. He had to put up with a lot of people stretching,  moving, and trying to teach him to use his body in ways that were difficult for him (and that he didn't understand). At Lekotek, the emphasis was (and is) on trying to help M have fun with the abilities he did have, while trying to encourage new skills. It was always nice to walk into one of these sessions and know that we would have fun! Our therapy sessions were twice per month at first, then became once per month as M began getting comfortable at Lekotek and making progress. And while this was a lot to juggle - with physical, occupational, speech and feeding therapy, weekly caseworker visits until M's adoption was final, frequent doctor/hospital appointments, and E's appointments and swim team commitments - it's been well worth the time. M took his first step, used his first ASL sign (more), and attempted his first words at Lekotek ( "more" and "again").

Currently, M's goals have changed dramatically from where we started - he is now moving very well (and is pretty quick!). His goals now include fine motor skills (using his hands and fingers), speech, balance (he falls a LOT), and self-confidence. M is almost always a very cautious child and we've had to be very firm about NOT doing things we know that he CAN do.

Today, when we all went to the session, the boys had a few minutes to play with the toys in the lobby while our therapist was finishing a session with another family. When she was ready for us, we went back to her playroom. As always, she had a stack of toys that she selected for us to try out. Since M is learning colors, and is very interested in them at the moment, she had a "My First Pegboard" for him to try.

My First Pegboard
He really seemed to like the idea of it, and was very willing to try to put the pegs in, but had difficulty manipulating the pieces. We brought this one home to work on. We will work with him on using his hands to put the pieces in, matching the colors,  and pronouncing the color words.

Next, we played with a plastic car set that had two ramps for the car to go down. Although we have an identical set at home, we decided to borrow this one anyway - the sets actually snap together, and this would give us a chance to see if he would play with more than one set at a time. This is primarily a toy to help M use his hands and his imagination.

Then, we played with a pizza topping game that was a little too difficult for him to play as a taking-turns type of game. But, the goal in the game is to balance the pieces on top of a wobbly "pizza", which was actually kind of hard to do. We decided to try the pizza game, with the goal of working on matching and balancing the game pieces (using his hands).

Next, we played with 'self-correcting' number puzzle pieces. These are really common, and we actually have a set of the ABCs and animal ones. Still, M loves numbers, and was really willing to play with this, so we decided to borrow it. It's another one for using his hands, but it's very different manipulating the cards versus manipulating hard pieces of plastic or wood.

Number Puzzle

We then got to try what ended up being MY favorite toy - a match and sort toy. It has a mat with twelve shadows, and it has toys that match the shadows.  M had to match the toy with the shadow. He did very well - and really liked it. It was funny to see how he and E interacted with this one,  and that's what made it my favorite. M would match the toy so that it looked like it was casting the shadow (i.e. standing up), while E would take the piece from him and match the toy to the shadow (laying down).  They drove each other a little crazy correcting one another, but it was a cute crazy.  This one is more for working on his cognitive skills, speech, and self confidence.
Match and Sort
Next, we tried a similar sorting toy, with small pieces that could be sorted by color, size, or shape. This was a definite win,  and one we will try to work on a lot before our next session (and one we will likely try to borrow more than once, while M is mastering it.  I was really excited to see how well M was able to manipulate the small-ish pieces of this one; this is another for his hands, speech, and self-confidence.

Finally, we did try a 6-pin indoor bowling game. We decided not to borrow this one, as we have a similar set at home (and because E doesn't handle this one well - we actually took his away because he gets too wild playing it).

While the boys were still playing with the toys, our therapist and I checked in the toys we borrowed last time. Since we elected not to borrow the bowling toy, we chose to re-check out a number- fishing game that we liked from last month.  Among the items we returned were a color sorting toy, a walk-on piano keyboard, a large play barn with animals, a farmer, and a tractor (we had the barn set for three solid months because M was obsessed with it), and a set of eight shape-sorting wooden boxes with different locks to manipulate.

M then got computer time - which he loves. The computer in the playroom is adapted to have a touch screen and a large one-button mouse, to make it easier for kids to use (especially kids with disabilities); they also have several tablets that are adapted to be even easier to use. M played a couple games on the desktop computer, with his therapist's help, and with us cheering him on. When he began to show less interest in the computer (but before he got tired of it), we went to the sensory/gross motor room.

The equipment changes from time-to-time in the gross motor room. Today, there was a large slide, a ball pit (complete with lots of plastic balls, of course), a small trampoline, a 3.5 foot tall dollhouse, a rice table (complete with a large variety of sand toys), a huge rocking/bouncy horse, a bubble machine with an adapted remote, and a projector/interactive whiteboard for playing games.  It's probably needless to say, but fun was had, chaos ensued, and plastic balls went flying everywhere.

While I know that it may sound like we just went and had fun playing and brought home a bunch of toys (and we did!), M accomplishes a lot more when we practice these skills this way, rather than just with therapy exercises - and it has definitely been helpful to have another expert helping us navigate through skills, goals, and therapies along the way!


Sunday, January 7, 2018

M is TALKING!

M has had major struggles with speech; we believe is solely because of his cerebral palsy. Every word he's learned to pronounce and use has been after a TON of practice, struggle, and therapy. As of last week, he was up to around 25 words that he would use (please, open, no, E, Appa, more, doggie, cat, cookie, apple). He put two words together for the first time this fall (Cookie, yum!).  He did it again a couple of times in December (more ball; eat apple, go night-night, cookie please; no, E!).

Then - last week - we started to notice a major change in his speech. He began to more accurately repeat and ask for words (especially color and number words). His two-word combinations began to increase slightly...and then he began popping out entire sentences!

P picked M up from daycare last Wednesday, and M ran up to him, showing him a stamp on  his hand and saying, "I got a ball!".  His speech was very clear - and it shocked the daycare teacher, who'd barely heard him say one or two words (other than NO) since she'd met him (several months ago).

The next day, was a repeat, except I picked M up from daycare, and he exclaimed, "I got a ball! Blue!", and he showed me a stamp of a blue football on his hand. On the way out, we stopped at the front desk, and he started pointing to objects and guessing colors. He pointed to the director's shirt and said "hey, purple!" (purple sounds like paw-pull). Then, he started with other colors (blue = "boo", green = "geen", red = "wed", yellow = "well woah"). He's not very accurate yet, but he's definitely getting there!  He's been keen on colors since, and has asked about them all weekend - from asking about them a the hardware store when we were completing/painting a project to bringing us toys to ask. His integrative therapist sent home color matching toys last month that he hadn't looked at (and wasn't really interested in) until today!

Today, though, he popped out a second new sentence that took us all by surprise...while I was folding laundry, I heard "I gotta go potty."  It was clear as day, and I even assumed that E said it, at first. When M repeated himself, we definitely went and tried to potty.  He's not trained yet; we've taken a more Montessori/learning (very laid back) approach because we aren't sure what kind of control he's capable of yet.  Still, he repeated it several times throughout the day. Each time, we were too late, but he's talking, excited about trying, and is becoming more aware!

I love hearing his little voice. I love hearing him communicate with us :). I'll also admit - I also love that people are starting to realize that he's much more capable and aware than they'd realized. I've been M's champion since the beginning...cheering him  on through so many hours of therapy. Telling people how smart and capable he is, even though they couldn't see what I did. And it's really a lot of fun to see them taken by surprise as he's starting to let them know what he can do!

Here's hoping that he continues to roll with a speech explosion!!

Monday, January 1, 2018

Happy New Year!

We made it to 2018!  E made it all the way until midnight this year (but barely!), while M clocked out around 10:30 (even after a second late nap in the afternoon).

2017 was definitely a weird year.

The absolute BEST part was finalizing M's adoption!!

The worst part was losing three beloved pets in one year: two dogs - Bear, age 16 (sudden, severe paralysis) and Rocky, age 17 (kidney failure); and the best horse on the planet, Reno - at age 37 (sudden heart failure).  I usually dedicate an entire post to one of our pets when they pass away, and I actually wrote one for Rocky, but I just haven't wanted to publish them yet.

While I'm not a big fan of New Year's Resolutions, I decided to make a few anyway :).

1) I will be trying to volunteer more time at our church. They are starting a new ministry for families currently fostering, and I'd like to help. While we are considering renewing our foster care license for this year, we are not 100% sure that we will foster again (except, perhaps, for respite care) until M and E are a couple years older, so this will give me a chance to help actively fostering families without actually fostering.

2) I am definitely hoping to potty train M this year.

I'm tossing around a few other ideas (including things like "read more") but haven't decided to officially add anything else to this short list yet.

In the meantime, before I bid adieu, I thought I'd add a short funny to this post.  M found one of our cat toys that he hadn't seen before today. It looks like a mink tail, and our cats love throwing it around. M clearly thought it was a cat's tail that came off...he was holding it and repeatedly saying "oh, no...cat" in the most worried tone. He even mimed putting it on his bottom when he was trying to tell us about it. He was a little miffed that we thought he was hilarious. He *did* go and look at our cats to make sure they were okay...we've been cracking up laughing at him all afternoon.

He's also coming to tattle on E when their play gets rough.  Most of what he says is completely unintelligible, except for E's name - but his tone and the way he points at E is an obvious tell - and it's all I can do not to giggle when he does it.






Saturday, December 30, 2017

All About M

I haven't been able to share much about M, since he was technically a foster child for his first two and a half years at home with us.

M was a teeny-tiny guy - almost a week old - when he was placed with us.


While I am not going to write a full post to give M's complete history (most of it is in our second timeline and our 'about us' page anyway), I do want to take a few minutes to talk about what he's doing now.

M has several diagnoses, the most noticeable of which are cerebral palsy and a vision impairment. We see a lot of "-ologists" and therapists. He is currently in speech, integrative, and occupational therapy (we dropped physical therapy after his second birthday, though may need to go back at some point). At this point, his integrative therapy is only in person once per month. He is somewhat behind in small motor skills, and in motor planning, so he may be in OT for a while. He is currently still learning to use a fork/spoon, to do wooden toddler puzzles ("peg" style), to use a crayon, and to use his hands to turn objects. It also looks like we will be in speech for a while...though he has made some truly impressive gains with his new speech therapist (he gained 9 months of developmental speech in the last 6 months), he is still a little more than a year behind his age peers in this area.  He's said a very few two word sentences, which has gotten us all very excited (Cookie, yum!,  eat more, open it, eat apple, bye school, and more fish). The amazing part is that even though he has a very limited vocabulary and can't say most words clearly, he CAN sing - and is really good at carrying a tune :). His vocabulary is currently around 20-25 words, but he is now mimicking words and learning new ones more rapidly.

M is currently receives some services through our state's early intervention program (and some from private therapists), but he's now at the age were we are discussing a transition plan to either early part-time preschool, early full-time preschool, or private services for when he turns 3. At this point, he's made so many gains that he will likely not qualify for early full-time preschool...though that is what would be most convenient. Of the other two options, we aren't sure what we would pick. M's current preschool/daycare used to be one of the best in the area - but an administration change happened recently, and we aren't sure if we are going to stay there. Once we know more - and make a decision - I'll post what went into the decision we make.

M is on-track cognitively and emotionally. As of now, he recognizes that letters and numbers are different, and is beginning to name a few of them (2, 5, 9, A, E, I). He adores all things Sesame Street, Pete the Cat, Mickey Mouse, and Daniel Tiger, and he is in love with Moana.  He likes watching movies and going to the movie theater - he has a great attention span for them.  He loves animals, too, and is now telling us animal sounds (though when he doesn't know an animal sound, he generally roars).

M did baby swim classes one-on-one this summer with one of the coaches from  E's swim team. While most of the time was spent just getting him comfortable moving and playing in the water, he did learn to kick his feet, and was starting to learn how to blow bubbles. During this time, M began to adore his swim teacher and really started trying to talk to her and to communicate better.  Swim really seemed to help  him with movement and gross motor planning. I wanted to continue lessons when fall came, but his teacher didn't have the availability. However, she does have time starting after the new year, so M will go back to swim soon - and I am really looking forward to it!


M's daycare, since the administration changed, stopped doing a lot of things that they used to do - including art projects (which used to happen daily, but now seem rare - I'm actually not sure if M is even given the opportunity to practice coloring during the day). So,  as usual, I'm taking this into my own hands and we're doing art (among other activities) at home. M is LOVING it :). I got a couple blank paint/sketch books for the boys to work in, and have had both of them doing some painting. Although I use real acrylic and/or watercolor for E, I had M use tempura paint, since it's a little easier to clean (but still allows him to mix colors). It's really nice to see M sit and really focus for 10-15 minutes at a time - and really enjoy himself, too. 

M is now at the age and stage of development where we are now starting to integrate more formal Montessori-style activities, too.  This is a new development, as M hasn't truly been ready for anything formal until very recently. M still has a long way to go, and a lot of obstacles to overcome (including the two year old tantrum phase!), but we seem to be starting to make a little bit of progress in the right direction.

For now, since this post is just for M (more coming on E later!), I thought I'd do an overview of some of M's favorites (since he doesn't interview well yet).

M's current favorites:

Favorite bed time lovey: a red and white crocheted afghan that my mother made when she was a kid

Favorite food: applesauce (especially pouches), pancakes, and broccoli

Favorite song: "My Name Is No" by Meghan Trainor and anything by the VeggieTales

Favorite movie: Moana

Favorite book: He actually doesn't have one. He used to love "Llama, Llama, Nighty-Night", but now he just loves hearing ANY story.

Favorite thing to do on playground: SLIDE!



Friday, December 8, 2017

Whirlwind Fall!

This fall has been a crazy whirlwind of activity!  Itty Bitty, who is no longer either Itty or Bitty, will have a name change on the blog to M - partially to celebrate his REAL LIFE name change :)!!

That's right - after 30 months in  foster care, a ton of prayer, and a crazy, emotional roller coaster ride to the finish, M is ours!!

Many details that I was not able to share before his adoption, I now can - and will - as I hope to help families who might go through something similar, or who might be considering a similar path.

I've now updated our second adoption timeline for M; it includes the foster children who came into our home during that time, too, just to give perspective on how everything worked out.  Our home is currently closed for fostering; we have not agreed to take any more foster children since we let Sunny go. We will have the option to re-open for fostering after M turns 3 in May, but we are currently undecided as to whether we will re-open our home for fostering or not.  Eli does not remember his life before we had foster care caseworkers visiting our home a couple times a month, and to me, that's kind of sad.  With the boys' current needs, too, I'm not sure if adding another child to our family right now would be wise.  M is still in several therapies (occupational, speech, and integrative), and we have just been told that it's time to see an orthopedist for his tibia torsion in both legs (caused by his cerebral palsy). Still, many things could happen in the next 5-6 months that could change our perspective, so we're trying to remain open-minded about the possibility.





Monday, November 20, 2017

Itty Bitty

I am so excited to share that Itty Bitty's adoption has happened...and he's ours! I will be posting a new timeline and pictures soon!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Kitchen Update

Our summer has been a crazy busy mixture of appointments, swim practices (both Eli AND Itty Bitty), and changes around the house (including a KonMari style clean out)!  Still, I'm trying to keep up my goal for 20-30 recipes in the kitchen!

At this point, I think I might make it to 20 recipes - I don't know if I will make it to 30 or not...but am still hoping.  The best news is that since we've been cooking at home instead of eating out, the kids are actually eating more and gaining a healthy amount of weight, while P and I are losing some weight.  Eli is actually really building a lot of muscles in his stomach, shoulders, and back from so much swimming!

We've had couple recipes completely flop - but the few I've listed here went well.  I'm picking up with recipe #6, since I listed the first five in a previous post.

6) Zoodle Lasagna

For this one, I simply swapped lasagna noodles for zucchini strips. I made my regular meat sauce (that we often use for spaghetti squash) and mixed in a lots of diced, cooked veggies with the ricotta cheese.  The veggies were super convenient because they were leftover from a veggie quesadilla the night before :). It was a little zucchini heavy, but was delicious. I've seen other people use butternut squash slices for this one, so we may try that, too.

7)  Fake-Out Chipotle Barbacoa

There are a ton of these recipes all over the internet, lol. I think the one we used was okay - but it wasn't exactly like Chipotle's version and was more time consuming than I'd like.  I can't see making this one often when we have a Chipotle nearby.

8) Chinese-style beef and broccoli

This one was a definite winner! We used garlic and ginger to taste, then used equal parts Tamari sauce, brown sugar and water. We added cornstarch as a thickener. This was super simple to do and delicious.  This ended up being a little saltier than we wanted, so I'll cut back some on the Tamari next time - I will also probably add snow peas since we love those, too!

9) Brie and Artichoke Chicken Bake

This was a great way to use leftover chicken breast. I put large pieces of two already cooked (leftover) chicken breasts in a casserole dish, covered it in a can of diced tomatoes, some diced chiles, half of a thinly sliced onion, half of a large jar of marinated artichokes with a few tablespoons of the artichoke marinade, then topped the whole thing off with some Brie cheese and a handful or two of shredded Gouda cheese.  YUM!  This is a new favorite and another we will DEFINITELY want to use through fall.

10) Fake Brownies

We saw a recipe for vegan, dairy and grain free brownies on YouTube that we decided to try. UNfortunately, I forgot the name of the chef! The brownies have a date and almond meal base and are delicious!  They are chocolately, though they don't *really* taste like the real thing. Still, they are rich and satisfying - and they definitely settle a chocolate craving :).


I've picked out the next few recipes we are going to try, and am very excited about them. I'm not a big soup eater (though I do love plain chicken broth), but several of the upcoming recipes may be soups.  I am a little frustrated that I haven't found many freezer meals that we would like.  I may change my freezer strategy for the school year, concentrating on already cooked (home cooked and shredded) meat, fruit and vegetables.  This could give us a little more flexibility in the long run, though I'm not sure it would save much time on a busy weeknight.

As always, I'm open to recipe suggestions!